What is Search Ads?

Search Ads is an efficient and easy way for you to promote your app at the top of App Store search results. You pay only when a user taps on your ad, and our auction system ensures you always pay a fair market price.

You have plenty of flexibility with Search Ads. For example:

  • Invest as much or as little as your budget allows.
  • Start or stop ads at any time.
  • No minimum spend.
  • No long-term commitment.

Who can use Search Ads

If you’re a developer with an app currently on the App Store for iPhone or iPad in the U.S., or an agency that manages campaigns on behalf of developers, you may be eligible to use Search Ads. Certain exceptions apply, and all advertisers must comply with Search Ads Content and Advertising policies at all times.

View a list of countries where advertisers are eligible to sign up for Search Ads.

Why advertise


Search Ads provides developers control over app discoverability on the App Store, increasing your opportunity to drive downloads. The App Store is the primary place where people proactively go to search for apps, with more than 65% of all app downloads coming directly from App Store searches.* Search Ads helps you:

  • Promote your app at the very moment people are searching for apps like yours.
  • Position your app at the top of App Store search results.

With a simple setup process and campaign flexibility, Search Ads can work for all developers, with any level of marketing expertise or any size budget.

* Based on U.S. App Store Data


How pricing works

Search Ads pricing is a cost-per-tap model (CPT), so you only pay when a user taps on your ad. The actual cost of a tap is a result of a second price auction, which calculates the CPT you pay based on what your nearest competitor is willing to pay for a tap on their ad, up to your maximum CPT bid. This means you can bid competitively without the worry of overpaying.

Ad details

How Ads are created

Search Ads uses the metadata and imagery you already provided in your App Store listing to create your ad. If you change your App Store metadata, it can take up to 17 hours to be reflected in the ad preview within the Search Ads campaign app, and up to two hours for it to be reflected in your Search Ads listing.

Since ad appearance relies on metadata, take the time to review your app metadata in iTunes Connect, before you start a campaign. Search Ads does not support customization of ad creative, so you can’t change the way your ad looks or upload your own ad design.

Review App Store metadata best practices.

How ads appear

When a user searches on the App Store, a single, sponsored ad may appear at the top of the search results.

All ads have a blue background and ad disclosure icon. It could appear in one of several formats, depending on the user’s device and what may work best for the search query and user. To see examples of how your ads look as you set up your campaign, click on View Examples in the ad preview box.

Whether your ad shows over other advertisers bidding on that same query is determined by the combination of your app’s relevance to the search query and the amount of your bid.

It’s just as important to know when your app won’t appear. For example, if your app isn’t relevant for what the user is looking for, it won’t make it into the ad spot—regardless of how much you may be willing to pay. Search Ads considers both relevance as well as bidding, and does not put apps into auctions if they are not a good match.

Search Match

Search Match is a default feature that makes it easy to get your ads up and running in just a few minutes. With Search Match on, your ad may be matched automatically to search terms without you having to figure out all keyword possibilities and actively bid on them.
Search Match uses multiple resources to match your ad to relevant searches on the App Store, including the metadata from your App Store listing, information about similar apps in the same genre, and other search data.

Creating campaigns

Search Ads lets you create as many campaigns as you need. Campaigns contain ad groups and keywords, which you select based on your goals for the campaign. Campaigns, ad groups and keywords can be paused and reactivated, but not deleted, so it’s important to be prepared before you get started.

Preparing to start a campaign

  • Have your Apple ID ready.
  • Have an app live on the App Store.
  • Choose the country storefront to promote your app.
  • Know how much you can spend.
  • Sign up for a Search Ads account.
  • Add a valid credit card.

For more details watch the following video tips:

If you want to cross promote to your existing app downloaders or add them as an audience customer type, make sure to use the Apple ID associated with your iTunes Connect account when you sign up for Search Ads.

If you have a campaign that’s already performing well in one country storefront, it may be eligible to run in another. Use our Duplication feature to save time and copy ad groups, keywords and other settings across.

Understanding ad groups

Ad Groups are a collection of keywords and targeting attributes relevant to the app you’re promoting in App Store search results. You can set specific targeting criteria and bid amounts for each ad group.

To make each ad group as efficient and effective as possible, think about how users search. Each ad group should focus on a common theme or strategy related to your app in anticipation of how users might search for it.

How to choose keywords

Keywords are relevant words or terms someone may use when searching for an app like yours. When an App Store user types in a search query that includes one of your keywords, your ad could appear.

Search Ads knows a lot about your app and its genre, and it can provide a list of keyword recommendations to save you time. You can also add keywords of your own. If that’s the case, Search Ads suggests a further set of keywords related to the ones you’ve provided. You can choose to use them or not. It’s up to you. You can also bulk upload keywords using a spread sheet in the Keywords tab of the Campaign Management tool. Download the keyword template here.

If you want to choose your own keywords, here are a few tips:

Think like your customers.
Consider the search terms someone might use to find your type of app. Which words explain the need your app meets or the service it provides?

For example, if your app is a new camera app with some unique filters that aren’t available anywhere else, you’ll want to start with the basics, such as your app’s name. But then, think about what your app can do. Terms like “color editor,” “picture editor,” and “photo editor” might be successful at driving downloads.

Try both general and specific keywords.
General keywords should still be relevant to what your app offers. Otherwise, your ad is unlikely to make it into the auction for those searches. Using general keywords helps you reach a wider audience, but they might be more competitive, requiring higher bid amounts.

When you choose specific keywords, your ad may show for search queries that are more narrowly related to your app. Specific search terms can help you improve the rate of ad taps to conversions. But if keywords are too specific you may not reach as many customers as you’d like.

Here’s how each might look, again using a camera app that offers unique filters as an example:

General keyword
Consider using “camera app” to increase the likelihood that your app is considered for relevant searches.

Specific keyword
A keyword like “photo editor” explains what your app does and can help you narrow down your audience.

Working with match types

A match type is a Search Ads keyword setting that helps you control how your keywords are matched to user searches. There are two types you can apply:

Broad match
This is the default match type in Search Ads. Broad match ensures your ad runs on relevant close variants of a keyword, such as singular, plurals, misspellings, synonyms, related searches and phrases that include that term (fully or partially).

Note that in some cases, foreign language words may match to searches if they are relevant to the app. For instance, the word “amigo” may broad match to the search term “friend”.

Exact match
For the most control over searches where your ad may appear, use exact match. You can target a specific term and its close variants, such as common misspellings and plurals. Your ad may see fewer impressions as a result, but your tap-through rates (TTRs) and conversions on those impressions may be higher because you’re reaching the customers most interested in what your app offers.

You can pause a match type and add a different one any time, but you cannot change a match type once you’ve saved it to your campaign.

Tip: Use both match types.
We recommend you run campaigns with both broad match and exact match to ensure good coverage and performance. Broad match covers a wider pool of related search terms, which increases your coverage from that keyword. It’s common to run a term on broad match for keyword discovery and to ensure greater coverage with fewer keywords. Exact match provides the opportunity to show your ad for the exact search term. While it gives you less coverage, the user intent is more clearly defined and you can price the keyword appropriately to maximize impressions. View more on keywords and match types.

How to set your maximum cost-per-tap (CPT) bid

Your maximum cost-per-tap bid (CPT) is the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a tap on your ad.

Your default maximum CPT bid applies across all keywords unless you specify a maximum bid at the keyword level.

When calculating the amount of your maximum CPT bid:

What amount you can afford to spend on a new customer or action. Let’s say it’s $2.50.

The percentage of users who tap on your ad and who you think will download your app or take your desired action. In this case, you estimate 40%.

You can afford to pay up to 40% of $2.50 (or $1.00) for each tap. Therefore, set your starting default maximum CPT bid to $1.00.

Remember, this is the maximum amount you’ll ever pay for a tap on your ad. The actual amount you’ll pay is based on what your nearest competitor is willing to pay for a tap on their ad.

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) goal

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) goals are optional. We use your CPA goal as guidance to help maximize your conversions. (Note: It’s not guaranteed.)


  • We recommend you give your campaign time to run so you can learn from the results before you set a CPA goal.
  • Be realistic when setting the cost you can afford to pay for a conversion.

Setting your time zones

You can choose a time zone when you create your Search Ads account. Your selection defines the start times and end times for all of your ad groups and reporting metrics.

Important note: Once you set your time zone for your account, you cannot change it. Also, your billing will be based on UTC, rather than the time zone you select.

Campaign issues

Your app is not available in the Create Campaign view

If you’re trying to create a campaign but your app does not appear as an option when you type or search, it may be because:

Your app is new to the App Store
It can take up to 24 hours for your app to appear on the App Store.

Your app can’t be promoted in Search Ads
Your app might be in violation of one or more of the Search Ads Advertising Content Policies. It’s also possible that your app is not compliant with App Store Guidelines. Please review the policies—and if you have any further questions contact us.

Your app name contains a special character
If your app contains an accented letter or other unique character, make sure to include it consistently to ensure your app name appears in the Campaign Creation flow. To type an alternate version of a character, hold the key down until its alternate characters are displayed. Then either click on the one you want to use, or type the number that appears underneath.

I’ve been notified that my Search Ad campaigns are paused due to a policy violation

Your app might be in violation of one or more of the Search Ads Advertising Content Policies. It’s also possible that your app is not compliant with App Store Guidelines. Please review the policies and if you have any further questions contact us.

Search Ads is showing the wrong price for my app

If you change the price of your app on the App Store, it could take up to two hours for that change to appear in Search Ads.

You’re trying to advertise an app bundle.

Search Ads does not currently support app bundles.

You can't access Search Ads from your browser.

Supported operating systems and browsers for Search Ads

Supported operating systems
Mac OS 10.11x
Windows 7

Supported browsers
Safari (version 9.x)
Chrome (version 53.0.x)

Search Ads does not currently support Internet Explorer. For the best experience, we recommend using the latest version of Safari or Chrome. Other web browsers might not work with Search Ads.

You’re not seeing impressions on your ads

There are many factors that affect whether your ad receives impressions, including relevancy and bid amount comparative to your competitors, and the number of times users on the App Store are searching for apps like yours.

Impressions are not guaranteed, but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances:

  • Increase your max cost-per-tap bid. Many developers raise it gradually while tracking results.
  • Turn on Search Match for automatic search term matching
  • Analyze Search Match results to identify search terms that are performing well and add them as bidded keywords at a higher cost-per-tap.
  • Turn off or limit audience refinement to expand your reach.
  • Check your CPA. If you set your CPA goal too low or below your maximum CPT bid, you may miss out on valuable impressions and conversions.